10 essential customer service skills for every employee
The importance of top-notch customer service that is quick, responsive and geared to the customer’s needs, can’t be overrated in today’s business world. Customers expect it and will no longer put up with second-rate customer service.
Likewise, having an excellent relationship with your clients through good customer service, will bring you valuable customer feedback that will stand your company in good stead as you use it to make your service even better.
Here are 10 crucial customer service skills that the customer care agents of any forward-looking and dynamic business should bring to their jobs.
1. In-depth and thorough product knowledge
Any staff member who deals with customers directly needs to have a thorough knowledge of the business’s products, procedures and/or services. A customer care agent who is poorly informed will not be able to help clients in a confident and professional manner. No customer is impressed by being kept hanging on while the agent is fumbling around looking for information they should have at their fingertips.
2. The ability to bring empathy to the customer interaction
Customers need to feel valued, important, and appreciated. If they are approached with empathy by an agent who makes it clear that they are willing to listen and try and see the problem from the customer’s perspective, a happy and satisfied customer will be the result.
3. Ensure that highly skilled agents run your live chat facility
Live chat has become crucial for every business. In fact, as many as 46% of online consumers identify live chat as their favourite digital contact method. Only 29% prefer email, and only 16% say they prefer social media.
Live chat makes good business sense too – no long queue times with frustrated customers, easy access from literally anywhere in the word, and it is a proactive way of greeting your website visitors. Your agents must be excellent typists and have above average communication and language skills to do this crucial job well.
4. Patience and self-control
Dealing with difficult (sometimes even abusive) clients is a key part of a customer service agent’s job. Remaining patient and calm under trying circumstances are very important skills for these agents to have. An agent who remains courteous and patient during a difficult customer interaction may often be able to de-escalate the situation and reach a satisfactory resolution for the client.
5. Ability to stay calm under pressure
This point links closely with the previous one, but warrants a mention on its own. Customer service can be very stressful, not least because the agents are all aware that an unhappy, irate customer can very easily put a negative review on social media that can do the company serious harm. It is therefore important that customer service agents possess a high degree of self-control. They have to remain calm and professional no matter how abusive a customer may become, or how fraught a situation becomes.
6. Articulate and persuasive communication skills
It is important that your customer care agents are articulate, speak easily and fluently and can present coherent and persuasive arguments when dealing with customers. These skills will also impact on their ability to understand all the aspects and implications of the problem that the customer is explaining to them.
Remember, every single day your agents have to transform problems into solutions, and hopefully unhappy customers into happy ones! Excellent verbal skills are therefore essential.
7. A positive attitude and cheerful disposition
Bringing a cheerful disposition and a positive attitude to your job as a customer care agent are invaluable skills. Many irritated clients are quickly soothed if they are treated in a pleasant and welcoming manner, and have it made clear to them that their problem can be solved.
Look for people who have the natural ability to avoid words or phrases with negative connotations like ‘won’t’, ‘can’t’, ‘afraid not’, ‘that’s just not possible’, ‘unfortunately that’s against our policy’, etc. and rather focus on what can be done!
8. Being adaptable and able to ‘think on their feet’
In any job that involves dealing with people, the only constant is that no two days will be the same! Customer service agents will also be dealing with a great variety of queries via social media, live chat, phone, and email, and even face-to-face interactions. So having the mental dexterity and agility to adapt quickly to whatever situation or problem they are presented with is an invaluable skill for any customer care agent.
9. Active listening skills
One of the great truths about customer care is that clients want to be heard and understood. Active listening is at the base of all successful communication. What active listening implies in customer service is that the agent is totally focused on the words of the customer. The aim is for the agent to achieve as perfect an understanding of all the nuances and implications of what the customer is saying as is possible. The customer must not only feel validated, but must also be confident that their problem has been fully understood, and that it will be dealt with competently and speedily by an agent who is on top of their job.
10. Taking responsibility for solving the customer’s problem
The customer wants to know that the agent they’re dealing with has personally taken on the responsibility for seeing that their problem is resolved. They want to know that the agent is committed to finding a solution to their problem and will make it their priority to see that this happens. Customers don’t like being shuffled from agent to agent because nobody will take personal responsibility to resolve their issues.